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Resident challenges fireworks ordinance

by Trevor Keiser

August 08, 2012

Orion resident Michael Mahan challenges the ordinance at a July 30 Township Board Meeting. Photo by T.Keiser.
Regulating fireworks and nearly prohibiting them all together are two different things, according to Michael Mahan, owner of Lake Orion Fireworks.

"I don't want to see them banned," he said. "There goes the business of why they made them legal so we could sell them here in Michigan instead of going to Ohio and giving them millions of dollars."

Not only would it hurt business in Michigan, but it would hurt business in the township as well, said Mahan who recently hired eight employees and put a deposit down on a storefront on M-24 to sell fireworks.

"My business was going around shooting shows for graduations, weddings, birthday parties, Fourth of July parties, whatever," he said. "They're just totally ignoring my business."

Mahan is responding to the explosive discussion at the July 30 Orion Township Board meeting where the first reading of the Proposed Fireworks Ordinance was passed on a 6-1 vote.

Township Attorney Dan Kelly said the proposed ordinance essentially bans the use of commercial fireworks other than the day before, the day of and the day after a national holiday, which is consistent with state law.

"We are imposing some very minor limitations on those three days surrounding a national holiday, which would appear to be supported by some good common sense," added Kelly. "That means cannot light off consumer fireworks within 20 feet of an open flame and limit excessive use of the fireworks no more than 20 minutes from 10:30 p.m. to 11 a.m."

Mahan believes the language "limiting excessive use" violates state law.

"I've hired an attorney and I'm fighting this war and I'm hoping I have 100 people show up at that meeting on Aug. 20," he said. "That's my goal to start a petition and get as many people as I can."

Under section 7 of the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act 256 of 2011 paragraph 2 says "A local unit of government may enact an ordinance regulating the ignition, discharge, and use of consumer fireworks. However, an ordinance enacted under this subsection shall not regulate the use of consumer fireworks on the day preceding, the day of, or the day after a national holiday."

"I understand regulating it, but to regulate it on the days they're not even allowed to regulate it," said Mahan. "They are illegally adopting the ordinance if they do it."

He also said fireworks were expensive and people couldn't afford to buy them every weekend.

Trustee John Steimel who was the dissenting vote felt many of the regulations were overkill to the ordinances overall purpose and read too much like a zoning ordinance

"There are a lot of things in here I don't think we intended to do," said Steimel. "The real thing was let's just keep it so it doesn't sound like a war zone in this place at odd hours."

Speaking of war zone, resident and Vietnam Veteran John Hart said the fireworks explosions does remind him of war.

"My stress level has gone up, my heart pressure weight has gone up, it's waiting when and where at what time of day," said Hart. "When you have year round sales of those things, more people would be buying those and constantly disobeying the rules of the laws. It would also assure our precious little home animals wouldn't be scared by the boom, boom, boom."

As far as complaints go, Orion Substation Commander Lieutenant Dan Toth, said three weeks prior and a week after the Fourth of July was their peak where they received 10-15 calls a day complaining about fireworks, but since then the numbers have gone down.

"We are still getting calls and complaints about fireworks," he said. "But they're sporadic, mostly on the weekends and not in huge residential areas."

Resident Donni Steele questioned the need for another ordinance.

"If we're not following the noise ordinance what good does it do to set up another ordinance," she asked.

Resident Rob Pope offered a comment of caution, as not to "create a prohibition issue."

"If we as citizens don't know what you want us to do, it's hard for us to do that," he said. "I think you might want to simplify this."

Resident Edward Peters said he was concerned about Mahan selling fireworks in a storefront.

"An establishment loaded up with all kinds of explosives. What is the zoning for that store? How close is it to another establishment? What kind of fire suppression system is in it? One big boom could leave an awful big hole in our community," said Peters. "If it's closer to other businesses it could put other people out of work."

Copies of the proposed ordinance are available at township hall in the clerk's office or see a copy on the township's website www.oriontownship.org.